Thursday, December 5, 2013

Update on Zion!

It's hard to believe that this time last year, I was sitting by the window at Children's Hospital, holding my precious newborn Zion while his body battled an E Coli infection!  Birds fluttering in and out of the treetops were a reminder to me of God's promise:
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:26
This year I pulled out the tree that my friend Kelley brought me, and I was reminded of all of the love and support we received during such a difficult time. 

 They served as the living hands of Jesus!

Monday of this week, we were back at Children's Hospital, only this time to follow up on how his kidneys are doing. 

So, the "not yet" good news showed:
His right kidney was slightly more dilated than at our past ultrasound.
His left kidney had stayed the same.
 {The reason this was not as positive as it sounds, was that his left kidney is the one that is the worst.  The Dr. was definitely feeling that there is some sort of partial blockage causing the hydronephrosis (dilation).}
So, what does all of that mean?  Well, in April we will return for a follow up procedure that will show his kidney function through an MRI.  If his function is still low, then the Dr. will recommend surgery at that point.
The good news was:
Zion was still through the whole procedure, and they were able to get very accurate results!
They were able to get Zion's first ever normal blood pressure!
We are still believing for healing!
We know that God will use this situation to His glory regardless of whether or not He chooses to heal Zion!
We covet your prayers as we continue on this journey!
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Annual Christmas Love Is...

A Christmas Love Is...

Yesterday we spent the morning visiting the Dr.'s at Children's Hospital...updates on Zion tomorrow.
  For now, here is my annual repost, it is a great reminder as we head off into the holiday season!
{I actually have a version of this framed in my kitchen all season long!}

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime: I’m just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity; but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love does not envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return; but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

--Author Unknown

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You know it's been a long time since you've blogged when...

Your Amazon advertisement still shows:
"Soaking Up Summer Savings" the day before Thanksgiving!
I promise I haven't fallen off the face of the earth!  In fact, I have a lot to catch up on! 
Over the last 3 months, we celebrated our 22nd Wedding Anniversary:
And welcomed a new grand baby, all on the same day!
Mercedes Ann Cook

We also celebrated some birthdays:


Sarah Eden - 7!

Zion Philip - 1!
Took a road trip...
and brought home a Marine!
Not to mention the everyday stuff like schooling, gardening, home upkeep, and discipleship (a renewed and rejuvenated topic close to our hearts)!
Thank you to all of you who have inquired about where we've been!
  Thank you to those of you who have personally stopped me and said encouraging words to nudge me to get back to blogging!
There are some interesting topics rattling around in my head, so I hope you're prepared for some challenging and uplifting thoughts to spur you on as well!!!
Enjoy your Thanksgiving Weekend! 
Remember to hug your loved ones close, tell them how much they mean to you, reach out to a stranger - even if only with a smile, and praise The One who makes it all possible!
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

I Have Become "That MoM!" {Well, almost!}

Well, it's been a LONG while since I've been here!  I'm sure many of you know where I've been, and others of you are thinking, "Will she ever blog again?"

You see almost 7 weeks ago I started on a journey that I never knew would turn into what it has!  I have become the Mama of a United States Marine Recruit!  {I don't dare call him a Marine ~ he hasn't earned that honor yet, and now that he is in boot camp, I understand more than ever why so many Marine's would be offended if I did!}

Many of you read this post, where I described Connor as my "warrior boy", and how I have grown into accepting that God created him with the heart of a warrior.  I thought I had been preparing myself for the day that he would go off to what we thought would be the Army, but instead has become the Marines...boy was I ever surprised by what God intended for me! 

You see, my plan was to help him pack his bags, wish him well and kick him out the door send him off!  Sure, I would write, but life would go on as usual and not having to pick up after him, worry about what time he would be home or where he was at any given moment of the day, or referee squabbles between him and his "annoying little brothers"  would be a welcomed relief!

And then he was gone!

I choked up at the Recruiting Office, but that was to be expected, right?  Then, I choked up as my husband described the swearing in ceremony and the "neck adjusting hug" our son gave him as they said, "Goodbye!"  Again, expected, right?

But then came the lack of sleep!  Nights that I had to let the dog out because Connor was not home for a late night potty run, left me writing letters to him at 3 in the morning!  One sleepless night would roll into another, and I was on the verge of tears every waking minute!

Day 3 arrived, the day we were to get the "scripted call!"  This is the call that your recruit announces in 10 seconds that he has arrived and that the next time you hear from him will be via US Postal mail in about 2-3 weeks, then an "I love you, goodbye!", then a "click"!  There is no opportunity to say a word to them!  I had carried my phone around all that day, having been prepared by a family friend that we would be receiving it!  I was paranoid all day that I would miss it!  As we were sitting down for dinner, the home phone rang...  {I had instructed Connor to call my cell phone, so I was not expecting it to be him, but answered it just in case!}

"Hello, this is Recruit Cook...I have arrived safely at MCRD San Diego..." 

My heart dropped to my stomach!  It was over before I could breathe!  I cried!

After that first call, my days became filled with the usual day to day goings on of a large family, but the in between moments became filled with thoughts, letters, web searching, even Facebook!  {Not your usual Facebook, mind you, but the Lima Co. "support group" page!} 

Fellow loved ones of recruits post segments of their letters:

"He says to send protein bars!" 
"My son is really depressed!"
"My son loves this!"
"The platoon was IT'd and spent hours in the pit covered in sand!"
"My son broke his leg!"
"I am now my boyfriend's fiancé!"
"I received a letter today..."
"I haven't received a letter in 21 days..."
"Post your son's name."
"Don't post your son's name."

Not to mention if a photo gets posted...Look Out! Oh, how I begin to scan and exam each face to see if I recognize my son! {Trust me, it's not easy! I actually could swear that in one photo I see Connor, but another woman on the "Lima Page" mentions that it's her recruit as well!}

And forget about when the mailman drives's always a race to see if there's a handwritten envelope in the mailbox!

Honestly, I have always been proud to be an American, and supporter of our troops!  But, not to the level that I am now!  It never occurred to me that the letters that some of these boys {and girls - if they are training at Parris Island} receive, may be the only encouragement they will hear.  One simple letter may be just the thing that gets them through their next challenge!  And, if this is the case, then what about the men and women who are "out there" serving in active duty?

Through this journey, I have learned to fully lean into the One that holds my life, and I trust is carrying my son and his fellow platoon buddies through this intense training!

I have learned that I am not who I thought I was, and that God can use many different circumstances to refine us!

It's a long journey...

So, you haven't been seeing me here lately, and I can't promise you will see me much in the near future!  Frankly, if I'm going to spend my spare minutes writing, I want it to be to encourage my boy - or someone else's boy that "they can do this thing!"

Only 41 days to go!!!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Fast Tip {How to Pick a Watermelon!}


It's that time of year...watermelon season!!!

According to our resident Fruit Market Professional {Stephanie}, the way to pick the best watermelon is to knock on it!  You don't want it to sound hollow, but more like a basketball.  This should insure a nice, dense, juicy melon with out it being too grainy!

Another tip to take away from our Professional that may be even more important than how to choose a watermelon:

"People are like melons:
 You can only judge their inside by what you hear!"

{Of course there are no guarantees!}

Thanks for stopping by! Be Refreshed!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And The Winners Are...

Well, it's Tuesday and I'm finally doing Monday's Giveaway Drawing!  Ahhh...such is the life of a blogging mom of 10!!! Actually, this week we are preparing for Connor's big send-off, so it's already been a bit crazy with 2 trips to Costco {Business and Regular}  and we aren't quite done yet!!!
I do have some ideas for your own graduation/send-off parties, if you have any upcoming events.  I'll post those later!
But, for now, without further ado, here are the winners of the Bento-style containers from Dollar Tree!

I put an entry in for each idea, including all Facebook and Private Message suggestions, then had my lovely assistant {Stephanie} draw numbers:

The first winner is: Tristen Haertel!

The second winner is: Annika Manchester!
Congratulations to the two of you, and thanks to everyone for the awesome ideas!
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Fast Tip! {Penny Perk Up!}

One of my all time favorite flowers is tulips!
{I know, it's not a picture of tulips below!} 
The problem with tulips is how quickly they will droop.  A few years ago, my friend Amanda taught me how to perk them back up...
A Penny!!!
Our daughter Stephanie just recently started working at our local fruit market.  One benefit of her working there is that she is able to bring home "un-sellables".  The other night she brought home these sweet Gerbera Daisies...not sellable because they were droopy!
She added them to a vase, plopped in a penny, and...

I just saw some flowers marked down at our local grocer to $1.99, for the very same reason! $2.00 could make a great, inexpensive pick me up in your home!
Don't forget to add your comments to "this post" for Monday's Giveaway!
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Giveaway - Bento Style!

Last Friday I was so excited to discover these Veggie and Dip containers at my local Dollar Tree, that I decided you need them too!
So, this week, I am giving two sets of them away!

Here's how to enter:
In the comments section below, list your idea of what you would pack in these convenient containers.  Let your imaginations soar!  I really want to hear all of your crazy ideas!  One friend of mine suggested Beads and String for a long car ride!  That's perfect!!!
Enter as many times as you like!  The more ideas you enter, the more chances you have to win. On Monday, I will have one of my lovely assistants pull two numbers, and then I will announce a winner!
Here's a quick picture of some veggies I cut up for a quick grab and go snack.  You could put dip in the smaller compartment!  Oh, and I tested doesn't leak!!!!
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Fast Tip! {Lunch}

I know, it's been ages since I've posted a Friday Fast Tip, but today I absolutely HAD to post!

While I was at our local Dollar Tree, I found these fabulous Veggie and Dip containers for, you guessed it, $1!!!

For a while, I have been eyeing the idea of Bento boxes and checking out different websites for fun lunch ideas.  What always stops me short is the price of those cute little boxes with the different compartments.  I always think, "Really, $14 for a small plastic container?" 

But today, my search for something inexpensive ended!  The kiddos and I love to bring lunch with us when we go to the park, beach or zoo!  I absolutely can't wait to find some fun ideas to fill them with!

If you want to pick some up at your local Dollar Tree, here are my quick ideas of what to put in them:

*Veggies and Dip (Of Course)
*Pita and Hummus
*Apples and Peanut/Sunflower Butter
*Pretzels and Cream Cheese
*Salad and Dressing

What else?  Please send me your ideas!  I'd love to hear some other creative combinations!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


One of my favorite things to hear my husband whisper as he's leaving for work is, "It's snowing!"  It's like the little girl in me comes alive as I envision what the front yard must look like!
But this mid-July morning, I was just as delighted to hear him whisper, "There are pink flamingos in our yard!"

Under the veil of darkness the Young Life group from our local high school planted these classy yard ornaments.  As a fundraiser, they will "flock" your friends yard with these lovelies for a donation toward their camp fund.  The next evening they come and remove them, and hopefully you have passed along the fun to the yard of one of your friends!

Whoever donated to have us flocked, all of the Cooks say, "Thank you for adding a smile to our morning...and a story to tell!"

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dilly Beans!

This past weekend, the girls and I made some of our family's infamous Dilly Beans! 
 We made the trek to our local fruit market to purchase our ingredients fresh.  My mom and I used to make this same trek years ago.  I can remember packing jars with my mom as a little girl.  Then came the eternally long wait for them to be ready to eat! 
Kiddos would pop in and out of the kitchen and say, "When can we eat those?"  To which I replied, just as my mom would reply to me, "Oh...around Christmas!"
Here are some pictures of the process:

 {Ken snapped a picture of us girls working...}


This is a copy of the original recipe in my own mother's handwriting.  Of course it would be so much more organized to have this in my computer, but I don't want to lose the heritage and memories that come with each scribble and scroll. {The "boxing" around the title is exactly how my mom always delineates her recipes!}
Just in case you want to make some of your own:
Dilly Beans
{makes 4 quart jars}
2lbs green beans
1tsp. cayenne pepper (or 1-2 red "hot peppers")
4 cloves garlic
4 dill heads
1/4 cup salt
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups vinegar
Remove tips from beans and wash thoroughly.  Pack clean canning jars with beans lengthwise.  Add pepper, 1 clove garlic, and 1 dill head. 
Combine water, vinegar, and salt and boil until salt is dissolved.
Pour into jars with 1/4" of headroom.  Add lids and rings.  Hot water bathe the jars for 4 minutes.  Remove from water and let cool.  Lids with "pop" as they seal.
Wait...wait...wait!  They'll be ready around Christmas!
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hand Holding! {With an update on Zion}


They didn't notice me, but I noticed them! 

Monday I was waiting for Zion to be seen at our local Children's Hospital.  A couple walked in, obviously new to the "Children's Experience."  As they navigated their way through security, checking in, and then each looking for signs to direct them where to go, instinctively they reached their hand out to the other.  Catching hold of each other, a look of relief passed between them.

Today {Wednesday}, as the kiddos and I walked home from the store...Hudson started crying out, "Someone hold my hand!!!  Hold my hand!"  Then catching himself, calmly asking, "Would someone please hold my hand!"

I turned and said, "Sure Hudson!  I'd love to hold your hand!  I love holding hands, wanna' know why?"

He looked at me, and I answered...

"Because it's a good reminder that you're not alone!"

A quick update on Zion ~
Today he was seen at the Urology Clinic following an ultrasound of his kidneys.  The ultrasound showed noticeable improvement to his kidneys!  While they are still dilated, they have more "working tissue" than the previous ultrasound, and the ureter are no longer swollen!!! 
We are praising God for His healing hand and praying for continued healing for Zion!
Tomorrow we see the Nephrologist {kidney specialist} who will give her opinion of the ultrasound...we are expecting good news from her as well!
Thank you to all who have joined us in imploring the Lord for his hand on Zion!
Next follow up appointment in November!
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Itsy Bitsy Spider...

Do you see him?

Yep, this little, itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, eight-legged, nemesis was the culprit who sent my, tough to the core, 4 year old into a screaming fit, thereby destroying naptime!
And, any normal mother would have squished said peace invader!  But, no, not me...
No, I'm one of those mothers...
I found a glass, coaxed him into it, {took his picture}, and then gently set him outside - where he belongs!
The truth is I used to be terrified of bugs and spiders, and admittedly, I still am.  But, as a mom, I suck it up - most of the time - and tell my kiddos, "Spiders are really good!  Spiders kill and eat bugs we don't like! Spiders are our friends!" 
You know what?  My kiddos believe me!  They reflect what I show them. The olders tell each other how they hope to see lots of spiders this summer because it signals we will have snow this winter. {A wives tale my husband's late grandmother told me years ago...and I repeat often...'cause I love snow!}
How about you?  Do you save, smush or scream when you see a creepy, crawly friend like one of these?
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Dance!

I absolutely adore weddings! 
 So much joy, laughter, tears, memories, hope...all wrapped up in one day! 
 I love watching the little flower girls walk down the aisle.

  The dapper ring bearer as he cautiously carries the pillow.

  The nervous groom as he awaits his bride.

 The protective Father as he releases his cherished daughter into an other's hands.

 And of course the bride...oh the beautiful bride!

And what is more dreamy than watching the couple have their first dance as "one"?
 I also love the sentiment of the Father/Daughter dance.  For some, the bride has known her whole life what song will play as she dances those final steps with her Daddy ~ Butterfly Kisses anyone?
For the Mother/Son dance, Brandon and I chose a song that has meaning that only those closest to us would understand!
{Until Now...}
She packed my bags last night, pre-flight
Zero hour, nine a.m.
And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then

I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife
It's lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it's gonna be a long, long time ‘til touch down brings me round again to find I'm not the man they think I am at home
Oh no, no, no, I'm a rocket man
Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone

Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it's cold as hell
And there's no one there to raise them if you did

And all this science, I don't understand
It's just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

And I think it's gonna be a long, long time ‘til touch down brings me round again to find I'm not the man they think I am at home
Oh no, no, no, I'm a rocket man
Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it's gonna be a long, long time...
One crazy night, after putting Tristen to bed, Ken and I were doing dishes in the kitchen and listening to the radio.  A remake  {by Kate Bush} of this song came on and a debate began over what she was singing...why would a woman be singing she's a Rocket Man!  Well, having loved the song during my childhood, I pointed out that it wasn't her original.  And, as conversations go, I said, "You wanna' bet?"  Not one to back down from a challenge, Ken replied, "Yeah, what do you want to bet?"  To which I replied, "A baby!"  Being fully sure of himself, or maybe actually realizing he would lose, Ken said, "You're on!"
Ken called the radio station...and, yes, we were on the air...I don't think the DJ had ever expected such a wild conversation that night! Best bet I've ever made!
The rest is history!
Rocket Man ~ Elton John
Thanks for stopping by! Be Refreshed!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Quick Trick For Floppy Shoes...

With The Wedding comes trying to coordinate outfits for 8 kiddos...
That means earlier this month we were on the hunt for black shoes! The big issue is that our children have long narrow feet – good luck finding shoes for them!

Here is a trick we use for Hudson's shoes which flop, flop, flop on his feet!
It's a trick I learned as a runner called the Butterfly Tie.  Basically, lace up the shoes like normal, but instead of criss-crossing on the last lace holes, go straight from the second hole to the first.  Then criss-cross the laces in the loop this creates. 
Can you see it in the above picture? 
 Tighten and cinch the laces as needed and then tie as normal.  No more flopping!!! 
 It will work on any lace-up shoe!
Okie dokie...just thought I'd share! 
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Final Countdown...

The Last Week is Finally Here!!!
Change the number 13 to 3, and you get the idea of how close we are to Brandon and Lisa's Wedding!

So much dreaming, planning, and preparing has gone on these last few months, and the day is almost here:
My part has been pretty small, but I do have a couple of little details to coordinate with the Rehearsal Dinner! Like putting together these fun activity books to help keep some kiddos occupied while the adults do their boring stuff!

Chelsea over at Lovely Indeed created an easy to download template for these!
Just thought I'd pop in and say, "Hi!"
It's been a busy month...
Now we're off to get some purchases, fittings, arrangements know...The Details!!!
{Stay posted...we've had some home projects underway, as well as a Father's Day Gift!  Oh, and a post about why I don't make such a good friend has been rattling around in my head!}
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Give Them Roots and Give Them Wings...

You'll remember that one of my favorite sayings is:
"Longest Days, Shortest Years!"
Today, I'm remembering one of my other favorites: 
 "Give Them Roots and Give Them Wings!"
We spend years doing the day to day task of raising our children.  We dream about the day when we will no longer have to shuttle them from place to place, discipline, clean up after them, analyze each look...sigh...friend.  We plant roots of responsibility...traditions. And then the day arrives.  The day they fly from the nest.
Then you wonder if the roots you planted were deep enough.  You consider if the urge for independence will supersede the desire to return now and again.

The small moments are now a memory...
Never again will a quick sandwich need to be made because the alarm didn't go off. The questions of "who's sock is this" and "will you be here for dinner" no longer need to be answered.
Your heart aches and swells all at the same time!
Today our second born "flew the nest".  He is feathering his own nest as he begins the process of preparing to be a husband at the end of May.
I have the benefit of the distraction that other children bring to soften the wound.  I am also grateful to know that he is prepared for his journey...(car rides with Dave Ramsey playing didn't hurt)!
Tonight I will rock Zion and remember 20 years ago when I rocked another sweet, chubby cheeked boy!  I will breathe in his smell and feel the soft tickle of his breath on my neck...and tears will fall as the tender memories come pouring back through my thoughts!
Soar my Brandon boy...soar!